Venue: Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
Opener: Swallow The Sun, Orphaned Land, Gwynbleidd
Label: Peaceville Records
I started my September concert adventuring with the crushing Melodic Death Metal of Order Of Ennead who played over at Santo’s Party House last week and it was good warm up to the festivities happening over at the Gramercy Theatre this evening. Tonight was the Atmospheric Melodic Doom of Katatonia from Sweden who would be joined by Swallow The Sun care of Finland and this alone would make for an amazing show without any additions. We would of course be getting a lot more for it would be complimented by Orphaned Land and local talent Gwynbleidd. I had to say that I was really looking forward to this show because it had been a long time since half of the players had been enjoyed in concert while the other half were only recently seen by this music scribe and left me totally impressed. The show would be held at the Gramercy Theatre and be sold out for many days by the time it actually would be taking place. I made sure I was inside nice and early because I didn’t want to miss a second of what was going to happen. Here is how it went down.
Gwynbleidd: The guys in Gwynbleidd have impressed me since I first caught them a couple of years ago. Their not a Doom Metal band per se but instead a finely tooled Melodic meets Progressive Death and a group that I think many fans of the band Opeth would be keen on. The interesting thing was that the last time I caught Gwynbleidd was over at B.B. King’s when they opened up the co-headlining show being done by Orphaned Land and Suidakra. It was definitely interesting to see them playing together again with the Israeli band. Gwynbleidd released their full-length debut about a year or so ago entitled “Nostalgia” and it’s a stunning Metal opus. Tonight the guys would play a lot of the same tunes as I had seen them do in the recent past along with what I was told was a newer tune that they were hoping to include on the next release. They went over well and were the perfect choice of “local opener”
Orphaned Land: It was only about six months ago when Orphaned Land had embarked upon a short US tour with Suidakra but it was certainly a memorable one. The band had headlined the NYC appearance and gone over like gangbusters. Tonight would be no different as the crowd was already in place before they began as they seemed equally interested in what this band would do. They started out by taking dramatic stance as the intro music came on and singer Kobi Farhi stood with arms outstretched like some Metal music prophet and it added immense levels of drama to the atmosphere. As mentioned, the band hails from Israel and dresses in a manner that reflects their beliefs and the part of the world from which they come and that also makes them a lot more interesting to watch perform while their sound draws you in and keeps you riveted with its message. Their latest album is entitled “The Never Ending Way Of ORWarrior” and this is a concept release that outlines the seemingly endless battle between good and evil. It’s terrific stuff to say the least and while I did not document every tune that the guys played tonight, a healthy portion was devoted to this album and no one seemed to mind. The band is signed to Century Media Records and this album is the follow up to the equally incredible “Mabool”. I cannot stress enough about these two albums being must purchase items. Sadly the band was done before you knew it and now it was time for some Swallow The Sun. This of course was not a bad thing since I had really liked the band the last time that I saw them.
Swallow The Sun: This evening’s STS gig would be the third time that I was seeing them in action with the last gig being the one where they kicked off the night as first band on when Soilwork came to town. That was an odd mix of bands but this review is not about that particular night so the curious will need to search the site for the whole scoop. If you have never followed STS before you should know that they are a crushing Doom band out of Finland, but one that does the format proper justice without question. Their “newest” album from the band is entitled “New Moon” which came out in 2009 so it’s a little early to say that they need to get us some new material. I don’t have this particular release in my collection yet, and left off with “Hope” that preceded this one by a couple of years. Still that would not get in my way of enjoying the band in concert at all. They came out strong and if you have ever really listened to them before will agree that it’s a very “dramatic” vibe being given off when they play. It’s heavy stuff for sure and it was great to have them serving as support for this kind of event. They surely deserve a little more attention over here and the crowd seems to eat them up. Singer Mikko Kotamaki does not waste time bantering with the audience and just growls and sings the entire time. They manage to hold you to attention from the moment they start. There seemed to be a lot of that going on tonight. They would open with “These Woods Breathe Evil” from “New Moon” and then reach way back to 2003’s “This Morning Never Came” to give us “Hold This Woe”. A little “Hope” came up with “These Hours Of Despair” and to the newcomer these selections would definitely come off as on the bleak side but that is a Doom band for you. Interestingly enough it seemed as though only a couple of more tunes were done before the band was suddenly off the stage. If I was observing this correctly they were cut at least two numbers from what I saw on the proposed set list and that had me wondering. Perhaps it was going to run too close to the venue’s curfew and infringe upon the headliners set, but if they were worried about that kind of stuff they should have started the whole night at 7:30pm instead of a little after 8pm. Friends who spoke to the band downstairs told me that the guys in STS were very upset about being cut and felt if anyone’s set should have suffered it should have been the local support. Even though I love the Gwynbleidd stuff I would have to agree that the main bands should never be compromised by the local talent. That’s not how this is supposed to work. Katatonia was next.
Katatonia: In 2009 the band released “Night Is The New Day” and this “Night Over America” was a tour that was anticipated across the Metal Republic for many months since the band had not been over here since they played B.B. King’s in 2007. That tour found them arriving with Swallow The Sun, Insomnium and Scar Symmetry with the latter being the liveliest act on the tour while the rest were lessons in being solemn. Since their “The Great Cold Distance” release the band had kept busy in Europe but they were finally back on US shores and tonight would be their third show in the States, unless I was counting them wrong. Either way it was very early in the touring run for this region and the band had come back over with some lineup changes from the last go round. Gone were the Norrman brothers Fredrik and Matthias and in their place were Per Eriksson and Niklas Sandin who had been in place since 2009. They toured heavily for “The Great Cold Distance” and that meant with this new tour that the new album would get some proper attention as opposed to the previous one. If you needed an introduction to their new album then it was safe to say that this tour would be the place to get it as they would be delivering no less than seven songs from the 2009 release.
Fronted by singer Jonas Renske, the band is hypnotic in concert and draws your down into the mire of melancholy atmosphere that they weave so well. It’s heavy yes, but focuses on the melody and groove more than just bombarding you with a staccato aural overload. There were moments when absolute silence gripped the audience and when it was over the noise from them roared like a thunderstorm. It’s interesting to watch Renske onstage as he keeps his face hidden for the most part and that adds just a touch of mystery to the performance. The set would start off with new material from the very beginning but no one seemed to mind since the release had been out for awhile. To my ears its rather different from that of “Great Cold” but no less dramatic and intense if what it is trying to bring across. Like most albums you have to take it in piece by piece and just enjoy it. I had to say that the band had me rooted into place a few times as they did their thing. The sound was tight as a drum and the band was performing in synch.
There was nothing bad that could be said about the set that the band was dishing out and even though they had left off a couple of songs that I had wanted to hear, we were all getting a superb treat with just how powerful the new album sounded in the live sense. I did get to hear “July” which is a favorite but they would oddly cut “Leaders” from the set even though it was written on the set list posted on and around the stage. The reason for this became clear when the non-listed “Departer” was performed and found the band joined onstage by Krister Linder, a Swedish singer who also did vocals on the album for this tune. The place loved the treat and I am not sure if the rest of the tour will feature him or if we were the only ones able to get the treat. Sadly I would not be close enough the get any photos of this part of the dramatic evening conclusion.
All in all this was a great evening of music from beginning to end and if they come back I would see them again no matter who they are bringing along for the ride. The only downside was the fact that Swallow The Sun lost some time in their performance and perhaps this event should have remained as the three major label bands to allow everyone sufficient time to offer the crowd a knock you down set apiece. Oh well. We don’t book the events, we only scribble notations about them and take the photos.
Swallow The Sun Set List:
1. These Woods Breathe Evil
2. Hold This Woe
3. These Hours of Despair
4. Sleepless Swans
5. Plague Of Butterflies: Pt. II: Plague of Butterflies
6. New Moon
Katatonia Set List:
1. Day & Then The Shade
3. My Twin
4. Onward Into Battle
5. The Longest Year
7. Soil’s Song
9. Saw You Drown
10. Idle Blood
11. Ghost of the Sun
14. Criminals (omitted)
16. Leaders (omitted)
Here is another example of our keeping up with showcasing the bright marquee as it announces the evenings band for all the world. Tonight this would not help the latecomer of course since it was sold out. Sorry folks. Buy early.
About a year or so ago I began shooting some of the stage tech that I caught a glimpse of and whenever I can remember to do that I like to continue presenting it to the readers as something visually different for their pleasure. Here are some of the views of what was onstage for the set of Katatonia. Effects fanatics commence drooling.
Just some visuals of the guitar effects used by the band Katatonia which allow them to help bring these amazing musical colors to larger prominence.
I give the bands credit for being able to see any of this stuff on a dark stage or with the frenetic lighting that they sometimes have going on.
The band would have a special guest joining them onstage for the final encore but you will have to read the article to know who that was. Here are some notes that were on the boards to help along with the appearance.